Short story: Above the Rest, by Martin Ford

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IF Kahler had applied his high intelligence to a different choice of career, he’d have been an asset to any business and would today be a happy, respected and wealthy man.

Unfortunately as a youth he was lazy, and greedy, and instead lazily drifted into crime for his career.

Kahler stood looking through the windows of the antique store, carefully assessing and valuing the collection of rare, expensive Ming vases displayed.

Facing the antiques store on the other side of the street, was a small village building with a bright blue sign on it stating ‘Police Station.’

The problem for Kahler, was his wish to relieve the antique store of its four Ming vases, spirit them away past the police station and not get caught for the theft.

Kahler knew the antiques store would be alarmed, its alarm linked straight into the police station facing it.

Being so nearby the police would arrive after he broke in within minutes, before he could load the getaway car with the vases and escape.

The narrow village streets were no good to out run the police - too many residents who’d see and hear the noise of Kahler, driving at speed, chased by the coppers.

It was too well lit at night, to sneak around here unseen. Everything was against a successful break in.

But he wanted those Ming vases.

Then the brilliant idea came to him how to outwit the village bobbies.

He had just one phone call to make to get his transport.

He’d break in here tonight, at 4am, after he’d arranged his means of escape.

At 4am, this warm summer’s night, some teenagers remained chatting and smoking in the old village churchyard where they hung out drinking cider.

No-one heard the near silent arrival of Kahler, as he parked his transport out of sight nearby. Using the woodland path, he now arrived behind the antique shop.

The crowbar persuaded the antique shop’s old window frame to oblige by opening.

Having cut the external burglar alarm wires first, Kahler now feared the silent alarm, certain it would be ringing inside the police station warning them Kahler had got into the antique shop opposite them.

But no police cars, or policemen emerged.

So far... so good.

Quickly wrapping each of the four Ming vases in bubblewrap he put them into his sack.

Kahler was soon outside and had gone back up the woodland path to his transport to escape with the sack of vases. It had all gone to plan.

With his transport ready, he was successfully escaping.

In the village police station, the antique shop alarm bell rang and the light flashed on the village’s police station board, but to no avail. This police station due to cut backs was unmanned nights.

Meanwhile, some youths were noisily in the churchyard smashing cider bottles against the walls of the village church, causing some residents to phone the police station in the next town. One teenager was seen with a crossbow.

For these reasons, Detective Inspector George Linden and Police Constable Woods arrived in their British Racing Green Triumph TR4A, at this village churchyard.

Parking, they approached the teenagers to speak to them.

“Come on, let’s have you. Can’t have you hanging around the churchyard if you’re smashing bottles against it can we?”

One or two of the teenagers, worse for drink, became verbally abusive to them, until Inspector Linden declared: “You’re aware we’re policemen? We’ve been reasonable with you so far. Be sensible, go home now and we will leave it at that. Get cheeky with us and you’ll be waking up in the cells on a vandalism and drunk and disorderly charge tomorrow.

“If you don’t want that, get out of here now and let’s have less of the lip or else.”

That did it, the group of teenagers immediately left the churchyard, and headed swiftly homewards with no more abusiveness.

Inspector Linden noticed the most abusive one hiding the crossbow under his coat and ordered him to hand it over, which he did.

“Kids,” said PC Woods.

Walking back to the car, PC Woods got in the passenger seat, but Inspector Linden stopped, and was stood forward of the driver’s side of the TR4A staring down at the windscreen glass.

“What’s wrong? What are you looking at? Sir?” asked Woods.

“That reflection in the windscreen,” Inspector Linden replied, as he looked skywards to the source of the image being reflected.

PC Woods flinched as looking up, they saw and heard the blast of a hot air balloon’s gas burning flame re-igniting after its long silent ascent, to give it more lift. Kahler’s face leered down at them with malice now he’d been forced to break cover in this his silent escape, now Inspector Linden had seen the balloon.

“ KAHLER! Taken up night ballooning now have we? I want a word with you about handling stolen goods again!”

Inspector Linden shouted up to Kahler, so he could hear him.

“LOOK OUT SIR,” shouted PC Woods, as a sand bag deliberately dropped by Kahler just missed the Inspector and his car.

The balloon continued ascending, as PC Woods added: “We’re losing him, sir.”

One of the Ming vases was now dropped By Kahler onto PC Woods, who amazingly managed to catch it, saving it from hitting the ground.

Inspector Linden aimed the cross-bow he’d just confiscated up at the expanse of brightly coloured balloon and pulled the trigger, sending the bolt upwards, puncturing the balloon’s surface.

As Kahler lost height, he set the burner flame going, vainly attempting to climb the balloon to escape.

But it was hopeless, the hole punctured in the balloon’s surface ripped open more, as the balloon descended and landed.

Kahler was arrested by Inspector Linden immediately, the stolen vases, thankfully, unharmed.

But special commendation went to PC Woods for his truly amazing catch of that sky launched, priceless Ming vase.